Tuesday, November 29, 2005

MSFT Bagholder: Blurring vision

"Bill Gates used to have 20/20 vision. He believed that in the future there would be a computer on every desktop. He foresaw a world where hardware costs would drop toward zero and the value added piece would be the software. Back in the day when a primitive desktop computer cost an arm and a leg, these seemed like wild statements. Of course, Bill was right and Microsoft grew into a great company because of the clarity of his vision."

I think it more accurate to say that he had 20/20 luck. He, and MS didn't think the Internet (or TCP/IP, or the web interface...) were important until those things overtook them (and that was quite a while ago even if it doesn't seem like it). Many of Microsoft's "best" early moves involved stabbing potential partners in the back. Technology didn't play a big part in Microsoft's early successes, just as it doesn't now.

In a way our industry has better long term memory than short term memory. They forgive a lot of the misdeeds of yesterday or last year (even Sony will be able to crawl out of the hole they are in if they make a sustained effort) but we still remember misdeeds of IBM in the 60s and 70s and those were minor compared to the record of Microsoft screwing everyone they could get their hands on.

Anyone who thinks that Microsoft can just kiss and make up with the rest of the world is dreaming. Exits by Gates and Balmer would be a good start though.

As far as vision, I don't know where they will go for that. Unfortunately for them, rules about what publicly held corporations can and can't do will probably nullify the type of vision that would actually have some positive impact. The closest analogy I can think of would be the tobacco companies. They just diversified into totally unrelated industries as a hedge against the eventuality of being sued out of existence.

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